Assuring Support for GA in the Pandemic Year, Pursuing Sustainability

A Capitol View 

General aviation was not spared the harmful economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic during most of 2020. As Congress debated government aid for businesses in a multi-trillion-dollar stimulus package, NATA took aggressive action with lawmakers and federal agencies to ensure general aviation’s inclusion.

“Looking back, it’s hard to believe how all-consuming our work on COVID-19 was throughout almost the entirety of 2020,” said Jonathan Freye, NATA Vice President, Government and Public Affairs. Specifically, he noted, NATA advocated that Part 135 on-demand carriers be included in the Payroll Support Program, created by the $2.2-trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Despite it being left out of earlier drafts, NATA also secured $1 billion for contractors to the airlines—many of which are FBOs—in both December’s consolidated appropriations/COVID stimulus package and March’s $1.9-trillion COVID stimulus bill.

“With Congress having passed multiple relief bills early in the year that tasked federal agencies with a considerable amount of work, the team at NATA focused its efforts on ensuring that the government’s efforts came out in a way that was workable for, and beneficial to, our members,” Freye stated.

At the same time, NATA led an industry coalition in securing full funding for the Aviation Workforce Development Program, as authorized by the 2018 FAA Reauthorization Act. The program establishes competitive grants to fund workforce development activities related to pilot and A&P mechanic training.

“An infrastructure bill may be accomplished this Congressional session, given unified Democratic control,” Freye explained, noting that on the campaign trail, President Biden often spoke of the need to increase investments in airport infrastructure. “That may mean more money for the Airport Improvement Program, policies that promote sustainable technologies—both at airports and onboard aircraft—and an enhanced focus on the industry’s environmental footprint.”

NATA, in fact, has established an Environment Committee to assist the Association’s policy priorities and highlight the achievements of aviation businesses to build on efficiency gains, sustainability, and other efforts to reduce its environmental impact. The committee will address initiatives including sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), solar power and battery storage systems, 100LL alternative fuels, FBO and aviation facility infrastructure efficiencies for aircraft operations, and aircraft noise mitigation technologies. “We will be working on favorable tax treatment for sustainable aviation fuels to promote their development and use,” Freye pointed out. “We will also be working collaboratively with policymakers to solve the lingering issue of hangar foam systems that contain PFAS chemicals.”

Along this line, NATA published a significant research report analyzing historic data on foam system discharges and developed a toolkit to educate the fire marshals who inspect and certify hangars. “We continue our work with the National Fire Protection Association’s standard review committees about eliminating PFAS foams from aircraft hangars,” Freye stated.

He added that NATA is a part of a coalition of industry groups and companies focused on promoting sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) through delivery of educational advocacy messages to the public and key policymakers. “NATA is also collaborating with Congress on legislation that would promote SAF’s development and deployment,” Freye remarked.

In addition, NATA has formed a subcommittee to help develop an environmentally sustainable industry standard for general aviation airports and aviation businesses. “NATA,” said Freye, “believes that a certification program for this stakeholder group to lower their carbon footprint is an initiative the industry could benefit from at this time.”

In a further development this year, NATA put together a strategic plan centered on sustainability, empowering its members to take action. “To that end, we will be providing programming and resources to them on subjects like solar power at airports,” Freye explained. “That’s a perfect example of a public-private partnership, where the local airport sponsor and the federal government—including the FAA—can encourage solar deployment.”


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